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Since the late 18th century American legal decision that the business corporation organizational model is legally a person, it has become a dominant economic, political and social force around the globe. This film takes an in-depth psychological examination of the organization model through various case studies. What the study illustrates is that in the its behaviour, this type of "person" typically acts like a dangerously destructive psychopath without conscience. Furthermore, we see the profound threat this psychopath has for our world and our future, but also how the people with courage, intelligence and determination can do to stop it.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mikela J. Mikael was called in to lay down a temp track for the narration. Despite repeated efforts, the film-makers were unable to come up with anyone better for the real narrative track, so they stuck with Mikael's. See more »
150 years ago, the business corporation was a relatively insignificant institution. Today, it is all-pervasive. Like the Church, the Monarchy and the Communist Party in other times and places, the corporation is today's dominant institution. This documentary examines the nature, evolution, impacts, and possible futures of the modern business corporation. Initially given a narrow legal mandate, what has allowed today's corporation to achieve such extraordinary power and influence ...
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The credits display addresses and descriptions of related websites but they can also be found on the official website for the film. See more »
Well Done But Basically Preaching to the Converted: A Lost Opportunity
Good documentaries have both a viewpoint and an agenda. They reflect the vision, politics, values and angst of the director(s). "The Corporation" meets those standard criteria and in an overlong movie it's Prosecution Exhibit A for an indictment of a) modern corporations, b) consumerism, c) disdain for the Earth and its bounty, d) globalization, e)sleek marketing and f) dishonest, money-grubbing media, the current Whores of Babylon. There's probably more but I was saturated long before the film ended.
In terms of style, directors Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar have made a visually engrossing film with excellent interweaving of archival film with sound bites by noted academics as well as business executives. We get Noam Chomsky and Milton Friedman and many lesser lights. Michael Moore appears enough to seem more a director than an interviewee but some of his remarks, particularly at the end, are more insightful than much of what he opines on in his own films.
Using story boards to announce different themes, "The Corporation" tells - very quickly and, indeed superficially - the history of the legal entity, what we in the law call the "Juridical Person," the modern huge, business creature. Its early history is quickly sketched, the complexities of the Anglo-American societies that spawned this economic model barely hinted at much less explained.
For better or for worse, documentaries best make their argument through striking anecdotes and this movie is no exception. We see corporations engaged in behavior that wreaks havoc on health, deprives poverty-stricken citizens of poor countries of even minimal control of their lives and, of course directs our spending and leisure habits.
But some scenes show corporate strategies as just plain silly as with a couple ambulating down an urban street, one telling the other how great a CD he's listening to happens to be. The idea is that passersby will become curious enough to buy the disc. I doubt this happens much but the use of shills goes back hundreds of years (ample evidence of their employment can be gleaned from Elizabethan literature) and it pales as a menace when juxtaposed to the true evils depicted in the documentary.
Some very complex issues which few viewers are likely to know anything about are presented as proof that corporations are inherently driven solely by profit motives with no regard for other values. Particularly disturbing is the incarnation of the writings of an independent scholar named Black who claims that IBM was in sympathetic and knowing collusion with Nazi Germany to sell them embryonic computers (not mentioned by name but they were the Hollerith punch card machines) which then made expediting millions to their concentration camp murder feasible. This account has been discredited by most historians but the more serious and unmentioned reality is that the U.S. government knowingly permitted some American corporations to prepare to profit from a postwar world by maintaining ties with subsidiaries in Germany (the Bank for International Settlements is never mentioned: now THAT's a subject for a film).
"The Corporation" returns often to the theme that this business entity is a "person" with constitutional rights ( declared a number of times as a sad fact of American law). In fact that's true but what is never explained is that investing corporations with an identity that is juridically recognized means that the entities - AND their assets - are amenable to every form of lawsuit from civil rights violations to environmental law accountability to - you name it. And corporations can be criminally charged and convicted. Yes, obviously they can't be jailed but the entity can be sentenced to remedial action, something that would be impossible if liability was limited to individuals who lack assets sufficient to cure major violations and, in any event, who surely could do nothing from jail or forced retirement.
Where could Ralph Nader's crusade for safer cars have gone if General Motors and other corporations were not amenable to suit as legal persons? How much benefit derived for anti-smoking advocates from being able to arraign Big Tobacco in court (even if losses exceeded wins)? Why are women and minorities working for Big Business (or just trying to get in the door) less likely to be targeted for discrimination these days? You'd never know from this film.
So we have a very mixed bag here - a well constructed polemic that is too one-sided if educating the audience rather than satisfying the converted was the goal. It was fun to sit in a packed theater in an epicenter of affluence - New York's Pleasantville in Westchester County - and note the righteous reaction of an audience of which I'd bet 95% own stock in major corporations.
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